There should be birds ready for the shooting season. But this shoot on Salisbury Plain is in limbo because of the chaos surrounding general licences. DEFRA announced a last-minute change which means shoots near some protected sites need a licence to release birds. BASC says the new rules affect hundreds of shoots.

BASC 's chief executive Ian Bell says his shoot at Salisbury Plain is in jeopardy over teh GL43 licence chaos
Biodiversity on Ian's shoot

BASC chief executive Ian Bell says this shoot, which has been operating on Salisbury Plain for more than 100 years, could close if it doesn’t get a licence. He says there’s a good chance they will have to make their gamekeeper redundant. He says: “The implications of that for him are obvious and for anyone losing their job. For us, it’s a whole raft of money down the drain. We’ve been here for nearly 100 years, and we’ve done an awful lot of work to try and make this place as beautiful as it currently is.”

He says the shoot is part of the military infrastructure on the site and they get a license to shoot and do conservation work which will be lost.

MP Greg Smith says the government needs to sort out the chaos urgently

MP Greg Smith says the government needs to take urgent action to tackle the crisis.  He says: “It’s a real mess and we need to get it sorted rapidly because of the animal welfare of all of those birds. If they can’t be released, they’re alive, they exist. What’s going to happen to all of those birds if they can’t be released and then shot to get them into the food chain for people to eat that delicious game meat.”

He says the government were clearly thinking about this at the start of the year but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that any indication of any change started to come through.

Gamekeepers say thousands of jobs are at risk over delays pf the GL43 licences
The National Gamekeepers Organisation says bird flu is not as prevalent as 2022

DEFRA claims the risk of the bird flu is the reason for the eleventh-hour change which is endangering hundreds of shoots and thousands of jobs.

But gamekeepers say the data the decision was based on is outdated as it is from last year. John Clarke of the National Gamekeepers Organisation says there has not been documented case of bird flu brought on to an estate by gamebirds.

He says: “There’s been documented cases of pheasants and partridges catching it. It’s just one thing after another. It seems like this is just another attack on shooting.”

Fieldsports groups are seeking a judicial review over the changes

Only a handful of shoots out of hundreds of applications have been granted licenses so far.  Even those that have said the licence restricts them from releasing birds until September.

BASC is going to fight these decisions. BASC and other Fieldsports groups have joined forces to seek a judicial review over DEFRA’s failure to issue the GL43 general licence because it puts hundreds of gamekeepers’ jobs at risk.


Norfolk gamekeeper Steven Musk is one of hundreds of people still waiting for a licence

Ian says the gamekeeper of neighbouring shoot got the news that they were not going to get an individual license. He says: “That chap broke down because of the amount of effort and work that he’s put into it. All this is on the back of a Covid season and a season last year where we hardly had any birds because of the impact of avian flu.”

He says it’s a precautionary principle that’s being overly applied and not well thought through.

BASC warns thousands of people could lose their job over the GL43 licence chaos

Norfolk gamekeeper Steven Musk is one of hundreds still waiting. He says if his licence  doesn’t arrive in time his shoot may fold, he could lose his job and his whole family will suffer too. He says: “It will be upheaval for my family, moving house and possibly moving communities. So that’s a big issue.”

He says the local community will suffer too as they employ several people.

Fieldsports groups warn that if shoots go, the countryside will change forever as the vital conservation work gamekeepers do will go too.

Gamekeepers warn the vital conservation work they do will also be lost if shoots close


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